Members of Congress and Experts - April 16, 2014 Press Call on President Obama’s Trip to Asia
Thank you very much, Congressman. Now I’d like to introduce Clyde Prestowitz. Clyde Prestowitz is very well known as one of our country’s lea ding experts on the intersection between geopolitics and economics. He had a long and some might say difficult experience as a U.S. trade negotiator in Japan and Korea and China during the Reagan Administration. And as President of the Economic Strategy Institute, hebrought that negotiator’s experience now to many books and professorships. Clyde, take it away.
Thank you for kindly inviting me. It’s a pleasure to be with the congresspersons. When the TPP was first raised as a possibility, I was among those consulted by the White House on what the objectives of the TPP should be. I asked the officials in charge at the time what the real objective of the U.S. was.
It’s important to understand that the history of the TPP actually began in Singapore. Singapore had been proposing a variety of free trade agreements in the South Pacific and Southwestern Pacific, and for a long time the U.S. ignored these, but then a couple of years ago the White House picked it up as a major objective. And so my question was “why?”
The answer was not that we’re going to create jobs for the United States, not that we’re going to stimulate the U.S. economy, but that we’re going to reassure our friends and allies in Asia that, quote, “we’re back." This was to be in response to a complaint that had arisen in Southeast Asia that we, America, had somehow gone away and had not been attending all the top conferences in Asia and so forth.
So the objective is really a geopolitical objective, not an economic objective. But because the mechanism to express this “we’re back” feeling is a trade agreement, it has to be presented and sold as something that’s going to create jobs in the U.S. and that’s going to benefit the U.S. economy.
So in my mind there are two questions. One is, will a TPP as we understand it at the moment actually be a plus for the US economy? And two, will it in any way affect our security position in the Pacific, in the world, and in some way strengthen that position? I think the answer to both questions is no.
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